I'll Allow It

Wretchard asked Chat GPT-4 who he was, to see what it knows. It's a plausible thing to do; what it knows is the internet, and we've published a great deal of content on the internet. 

I decided to try it too, since I was messing with GPT last week. 

Close enough for government work. 


I decided to try again, clueing in the GPT bot that I was asking about a blog. It was under the impression that the blog had closed, when in fact its own database ceases. However, it characterized the philosophy of the blog in this way:

That's actually a pretty good summary.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

It's almost as if price controls led to supply crashes:
This regulatory environment explains why California insurers can’t charge rates that reflect their actual risks. It also shows why there’s so little competition in the state’s insurance industry. Over the long run, competition keeps rates low. Insurance commissioners can certainly hold premiums down by edict, but the result is a contracting market. Homeowners then have little choice but to buy inadequate policies in a government-run marketplace.
Similarly, I made my living for years on the cleanup of the power grid crash in California, caused by regulators who were more interested in pretending that power doesn't cost what it costs than in ensuring that the grid produces power. Voters love the idea of putting bureacrats in charge of prices, until the goods disappear from the market. Then they always seem to like the idea of having the government step in to offer the product at a "fair" price. I call it the DMV-ization of the economy, my favorite examples being Obamacare and public schools.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Insurance Companies Are Quietly Fleeing California (via DuckDuckGo search).

Cheap Delicacies

It's St. Patrick's Day, so I considered making a shepherd's pie. I ended up making jambalaya. Both of these dishes are alike in being cheap local to their point of origin, and rather expensive delicacies further afield. Shepherd's pie is made with lamb or mutton, which if you are a shepherd is the most readily available food; but if you are buying lamb in an American grocery store, it's not so very cheap at all.

Jambalaya meanwhile has shrimp in it (omitted in my version tonight), which is plucked free out of the bayou down where the stuff originated. Shrimp is a lot pricier in the mountains, and of dodgy quality if it isn't frozen. 

Lots of famous foods are like this. You can't even make Scottish haggis in America unless you buy and butcher a sheep. Otherwise it's just not legal to sell you the heart, stomach, and lungs for food consumption. American haggis is mostly made with beef liver instead. You can't get the real thing at any price, but it too was meant to be a cheap food for the locals where it originated.

The jambalaya I made was all dry or frozen ingredients piled into a pressure cooker, except for the liquid chicken stock and some cayenne. It came out pretty great, and preserved the quality of being cheap that was the actual point of the original dish. Recommended. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day

 I always feel like I ought to include some religious content, it being a feast day, so here's a prayer called "the Deer's Cry," or "St. Patrick's Breastplate." 

Here, after, is a Spotify playlist of St. Patrick's Day songs. 

This is the way

"Universal school choice is growing in popularity across the United States, with Florida becoming the fourth in the nation to pass such legislation in the past year. A similar bill was passed in Iowa last month." It's on the legislative agenda in this year's session in Texas. The state school monopoly may have pulled off one of the great boners in history in shutting down schools. If they had it to do over again, maybe they'd think of a way to avoid letting parents look over their kids' shoulders in ZOOM sessions.

Happy 20th Anniversary!

This afternoon Grim's Hall is 20 years old. 

Looking back, the very first post was a call not to censor even a radical "jihadist" with proven ties to terrorists -- so we used to say in those days, still in the wake of the 9/11 and on the very eve of the Iraq War. It does call for the infiltration of the audience as a means of using the radical speaker as a kind of flypaper to attract the genuinely dangerous youth. 

Both of those facets are still quite relevant twenty years on: free speech is under increasing attack as a way of counteracting radicals -- who turn out to be ourselves, and not the 'jihadists' we thought we would be concerned about. Meanwhile the government's shift of enemies from radical Islamists to old-fashioned Americans has caused the 'infiltration' strategy to shift to an actual construction of flypaper groups, organized and led by government informants. I do remember that Patriot Act opponents in those days warned us that these grand new powers would be turned against us; turns out they were right about every part of that.

A lot has changed since those days on the sunny slopes of long ago. Not all of the change was for the worse. Thank you for your company along the way. 

Farmers fight back

No thanks to the mainstream press, which mostly depicts the Dutch farmers as budding Nazis if they cover the protests at all, but here's a bit of good news. Dutch voters just rose up somewhat against the recent wokista attempts to destroy their country's food production.

Ruy Texeira published a plea this week for Democratic messages that avoid the usual crazy-as-a-rat-in-a-coffee-can tone and concentrate on positions ordinary voters can embrace without embarassment or revulsion. He didn't mention things like "let's not destroy either the power grid or food production, because that might starve a lot of poor people in the immediate future," but he did come up with some unusually non-repulsive arguments:
Equality of opportunity is a fundamental American principle; equality of outcome is not.
Racial achievement gaps are bad and we should seek to close them. However, they are not due just to racism and standards of high achievement should be maintained for people of all races.
No one is completely without bias, but calling all white people racists who benefit from white privilege and American society a white supremacist society is not right or fair.
People who want to live as a gender different from their biological sex should have that right. However, biological sex is real and spaces limited to biological women in areas like sports and prisons should be preserved. Medical treatments like drugs and surgery are serious interventions that should not be available on demand, especially for children.
Nah. Never happen.

The darling of clean-tech banking

While it's fun to lambast Silicon Valley Bank for having a risk manager who, shall we say, was focused in a less-than-helpful woke direction, Kimberley Strassel points out a more fact-based criticism of the bank's woke infection.
SVB was the lender of choice for tech dreamers. It claims to have banked nearly half of all U.S. venture-backed tech and healthcare startups. Yet in recent years those clients have skewed ever more in one direction. “We serve those creating positive environmental change,” SVB’s website brags, noting that the bank worked with some 1,550 companies in the “climate technology and sustainability sector.”
Most of these companies weren’t filling some vital market need. Rather, as the Journal reported, SVB was beloved for its willingness to offer “banking services to startups that often weren’t profitable, in some cases didn’t have a product, and would otherwise have a hard time getting a line of credit or a loan from a larger bank.” One tech entrepreneur provided law.com a more scathing description of SVB’s products: “They’re basically subprime business loans. You’re talking about companies that have no credit profile, they’re burning cash and are unlikely to raise the same type of capital because of interest rates. . . . It was basically social credit.”
Paywall issues? Try this link to a search page, which usually takes care of it. If you were willing to drop bucks on an online subscription, though, you could do worse than the OpEd page that employs both Ms. Strassel and Holman Jenkins.

Weirdness in Begging

I was in Asheville again yesterday, crossing east of the French Broad River as usual in support of my wife's artistic endeavors. While in town, two different leftist organizations approached me on the street to panhandle.... er, 'to seek donations,' as it is called when you are begging for your organization instead of yourself. The first one told me that she was collecting to try to feed some hungry children; I offered her the spare change I happened to have.

"We don't take cash," she said. 


"Most nongovernmental organizations have gone away from accepting cash," she replied. "This is for our own safety."

Well, maybe, but she was carrying an iPad in order to process electronic donations. That was worth a lot more than the change I was going to give her, as a mugger would certainly know. Later that afternoon an environmentalist activist stopped me to ask the same thing, and also refused to accept cash.

Beggars cannot be choosers (a fact better understood by the actual homeless, or the various buskers playing instruments around Asheville, neither of whom refuse change when offered). I wonder if it is not allied to the general attempt to switch from cash to electronic funds, though, as those offer greater centralized control of our wealth as well as visibility on where and how we spend it. Left-leaning organizations gently nudge us towards electronic money, and offer us in return perhaps the virtue signal of having a donation to the Nature Conservancy showing up on our monthly statement. 

Maybe it's just that they themselves want to collect our information so they can continue to dun us. A fistful of change, or even a $20 bill, is small potatoes compared to getting the credit card number and contact information of someone who proved willing to pay. 

I guess they'll say anything

H/t Powerline: Imagine the pretzels you'd need to twist your brain into to come out with a rationale like this:
Last month the California Energy Commission thus determined that the state needs Diablo Canyon [Nuclear] Power Plant through 2030 to ensure electricity reliability in the face of energy supply shortfalls during extreme weather events driven by climate change.
But hey, whatever gets them there, even if it's "nukes are the only path to a carbon-free future."

In other good news, Georgia has managed to spin up a new nuclear reactor. I suppose the next step is to replace the new reactor's unexpectedly successful staff with wokistas until everyone is sufficiently distracted by nonsense to let the thing melt down.

In the meantime, I suggest that everything that needs to get done be justified by stamping it with the message: "necessary in the face of shortfalls during extreme weather events driven by climate change." We may also wish to add ". . . and systemic marginalization of heteronormiacs." Troubled by the reasoning? "It's intuitively obvious even to the most casual observer." The explanation is left as an exercise for the reader.


A new recipe for baked potatoes from a new cookbook: slice them very thin, toss them in butter and rosemary, arrange them in a pan, and bake them at 375 for an hour and 20 minutes. They're all crunchy on top and soft underneath. The thinner they're sliced, the nicer the crinkly effect. They look like one of those beautiful open-faced apple tarts.

The recipe called for a mandoline, but I just used a very sharp knife.

Tennessee Waltz

This is a song with an impressive recording history, including multiple hit versions and covers by great names. The thing is, I don’t think there actually is a “Tennessee Waltz,” only a country music song that features one. I wonder what waltz the original author was thinking of here? 

Moody Blues

Moody’s just cut the entire US banking system’s rating to negative. 

Buy high, sell low

Banking isn't as mysterious as we make it out to be. Adam Kessler at the WSJ sums up Silicon Valley Bank neatly:
Management screwed up interest rates, underestimated customer withdrawals, hired the wrong people, and failed to sell equity. You’re really only allowed one mistake; more proved fatal.
In case you hit the WSJ paywall and can't hop over it by Googling "Who Killed Silicon Valley Bank?"--here's a longer excerpt:
In January 2020, SVB had $55 billion in customer deposits on its balance sheet. By the end of 2022, that number exploded to $186 billion....
... There was no way SVB was going to initiate $131 billion in new loans. So the bank put some of this new capital into higher-yielding long-term government bonds and $80 billion into 10-year mortgage-backed securities paying 1.5% instead of short-term Treasurys paying 0.25%.
... SVB got caught with its pants down as interest rates went up.
Everyone, except SVB management it seems, knew interest rates were heading up. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has been shouting this from the mountain tops. Yet SVB froze and kept business as usual, borrowing short-term from depositors and lending long-term, without any interest-rate hedging.
People deposited tons of money in SVB over the federally insured limit. Uninsured deposits should be treated like any other risky investment, which people with more than a quarter of a million dollars they need to park should be considered competent to manage by diversification and otherwise. Naturally, however, the regulatory geniuses responded to SVB's failure by insulating large depositors from any consequences of choosing a risky bank to invest in. Otherwise, wealthy depositors might panic. They might even start evaluating depository banks according to their inherent safety, which would distract everyone from banks' important functions, such as DIE, ESG, and parting bonuses for deserving employees. Why manage risk the old-fashioned way when the regulators will manage it for you by imposing a tax on other banks instead?

Apparently Cross Cultural?

The BB had an amusing video series on Californians who moved to Texas. Apparently that’s just as real a divide if you’re also Mexican. 

Still the King

This week was Bob Wills’ birthday.